Gatwick Airport in the UK handled a record 46.1 million passengers in 2018, an increase of 1.1% compared to the same period last year.

The growth was boosted by the use of long-haul flights by passengers who opted to spend the festive season further afield.

The volume of cargo handled by the airport increased 16.1% in 2018 as a result of Gatwick’s growing global connectivity.

Traffic disruptions caused by drone sightings at the airport saw overall passenger numbers in December down -0.4% year-on-year at Gatwick.

“The unprecedented and unacceptable criminal drone activity that took place before Christmas had an impact on December’s passenger numbers.”

Forecasts suggests traffic would have been up 4.8% in December if the drone incidents had not forced the airport to close operations.

Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate said: “Our latest traffic figures highlight that 2018 was a record year for growth at Gatwick, with our annual passenger total reaching 46.1 million, and more passengers travelling to our extensive range of long-haul destinations than ever before.

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“As expected, the unprecedented and unacceptable criminal drone activity that took place before Christmas and, hugely frustratingly, prevented many of our passengers from travelling, had an impact on December’s passenger numbers.

“The consultation on our draft master plan closed last week and our efforts are now focused on delivering the final version of the plan, which will outline Gatwick’s exciting vision for essential long-term growth, later in the year.”

Gatwick serves more than 230 destinations in 74 countries. The airport generates approximately 85,000 jobs across the UK, with 24,000 of these located at the airport.